- Uncategorized

Elegy to a Bookstore?

Bookstores are still one of my favorite places to hang, and whenever I travel I invariably seek one to roam around in. Recently, when I was in St. Louis I happened upon Subterranean Books, which boasts a gold star (part of a Walk of Fame) for Stanley Elkin on its sidewalk. Here in NYC my favorites include the Strand and Unnameable Books and that lovely musty disorganized one on Mercer Street, whose name I forget. Lily Hoang writes about This Ain’t Rosedale Library, a famed bookstore in Toronto, Ontario, HERE. Feel free to show some love for your favorite bookstore(s) in the comments section below.

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

10 thoughts on “Elegy to a Bookstore?

  1. Ah, the Strand has claimed rather too much of my money, as has City Lights in San Francisco.

    Here in London my office has just moved to within walking distance of Daunt Books, which could be very dangerous.

  2. The one on Mercer St. is Books or Books, Inc.

    The one in Oxford, Mississippi with an open air second deck is beautiful.

    Powell’s in Portland has the best small press section I’ve ever seen.

    Tsunami In Eugene, OR has a great performance space.

  3. Subterranean Books is killer.

    Here in Indiana, I haven’t found one better than Von’s Bookstore in Lafayette. I’m going back sooooooooon.

    However, Boxcar Books in Bloomington has captured my indie-lit heart recently.

    I’m stoked to make it to Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver this August.

    1. Dude, Caveat Emptor in Bloomington is an amazing little shop of horrors.

      There’s also supposed to be an amazing bookstore in Ft. Wayne somewhere. I was supposed to go on a field trip there with a few pals back when I was at school at BSU, but it never happened.

      Unfortunately, Indy is pretty devoid of really awesome bookstores…

  4. I miss independent book stores! There are none in Tuscaloosa and when I go home to Ann Arbor all I notice is the gaping hole where Shaman Drum used to be (I don’t think Pitaya is a good replacement!)

    When I was in Chapel Hill I went to the Internationalist (http://www.internationalistbooks.org/?q=about) which is a not for profit and includes a library.

    I second both Powells and Quail Ridge, great places.

  5. Serendipity Books in Berkeley, CA is an amazing example of one of those huge, chaotic and labyrinthine used bookstores it’s so much fun to get lost in and Cody Books in the same city is a terrific one for finding obscure, scholarly new books.

  6. Quimby’s in Chicago! Up in Wicker Park. Definitely worth your time. They even have these cheapo “mystery bags” that they sell up front.

  7. Powell’s City of Books (Portland, OR) — amazing place with new and used stuff…and lots of it.

    Logo’s (Santa Cruz, CA) — Used bookstore with an incredible selection for its size. You can find a lot of obscure stuff in this place, and new stuff…it’s just awesome.

    We don’t have anything quite as awesome here in Florida…

  8. The bookstore on Mercer in Manhattan is called Mercer Street Books. It’s a good one. I lament the closing of the Strand Annex on Fulton Street a couple of years ago. It wasn’t packed as full of books as the Broadway store was, but it was in a large L-shaped building with 25 foot tall ceilings and giant windows well above street level that allowed various tones of natural light into the store all day. It was a lot less crowded as well, so it was quite easy to stay there. I always feel a bit pressed-in at the Bway store, thirty minutes and I’m out the door.

    Book Culture on 112th St. is a wonderful bookstore. And a trip up there can be combined with a visit to St. John the Divine’s cathedral at the end of the block. You have to like a beautiful old monstrosity of a church that exhibits ancient fossils with detailed information about evolution and has restrooms with tilings from almost as long ago. Diamanda Galas recorded her live version of Plague Mass there and the last time I visited there was an exhibition of photographs by Andres Serrano. As well, I saw the whirling dervishes of Mevlevi perform there to such exquisite music.

    The less well-known English bookshop in Paris is great – The Red Wheelbarrow.

    And my current favorite bookstore is in Evanston, IL., Bookman’s Alley. Whether or not you want a book, you will not spend less than an hour in that place. It’s in a gigantic former parking garage. The guy who runs it has been there 25 years. He is a collector of all sorts of artifacts that are displayed everywhere with the bookshelves that fill rooms and rooms. No paperbacks. Just hardcovers with plastic covers. Some very rare and others not. I didn’t want to leave, but did with a few nicely under-priced items.

    In Chicago, out in Oak Park, there is The Book Table which sells “fiercely independent” books. Large and well-stocked and not far from the pleasant Oak Park Library designed by Louis Sullivan.

    Speaking of libraries, there’s only a few days left to sign the petitions online at the various New York City library web sites. The Mayor’s office wants to close many branches. In Queens, where I live, they want to close 14 out of the 60 branches, including the one near me, which ironically is in the middle of being totally renovated right now with money from a private source. To close it now is pure idiocy. This branch is full of users from opening until closing, one of the busiest in the area. Similar agendas for Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island are on the table. So write a letter if you care. People’s concern saved the libraries last year.

Leave a Reply to JScap Cancel reply